Facebook ads targeted Fox News fans for shady silver coin scheme
We exposed a Beverly Hills boiler-room that used politically-inflammatory Facebook ads in an alleged scheme to defraud seniors of their savings. (Ten months later, the company was shut down by 30 states and the federal government.)
With millions of dollars worth of microtargeted, politically-inflammatory Facebook ads microtargeted to politically-conservative seniors, Metals.com found a ready audience for its lucrative business: convincing seniors that their retirement assets were best invested in gold and silver coins. That would protect them from the “deep state” and from a coming “socialist account freeze.”
In fact, the precious metals that the investors got was worth only about half of what they paid for it, court filings and invoices showed.
This investigation began with the Facebook Political Ad Collector project… but involved much more than just crowdsourced political ads: FOIAed documents, several sources with experience inside the company and numerous victims’ voices.
Our main story explores the scheme in broad strokes.
We also published five sidebars:
- How Facebook’s failure to enforce its posted rules enabled the scheme.
- A profile of a Metals.com founder, who is also an Instagram influencer.
- Why law enforcement struggles to combat silver and gold schemes, with details of enforcement efforts and failed reforms
- The scare tactics used, in ads and sales scripts, to sell conservatives on this overpriced silver.
- How to get help
As the story progressed, we wrote several follow-ups:
- Massachusetts took legal action against Metals.com
- Leaked audio shows how precious metals sellers fearmonger
- Be wary of coronavirus-themed pitches